PRICE — Utah had 244 municipalities before the votes were counted Tuesday night in Carbon County.
It now has 243, after voters in East Carbon and Sunnyside approved the consolidation of their cities. The measure passed in East Carbon, 297-68, and in Sunnyside, 70-32, according to unofficial election results.
"It's not very often that something like this happens," said Mark Thomas, Utah director of elections. "There's often a lot of talk about consolidation, but not too often does it get on the ballot."
The process involved months of planning, joint city council meetings, and public hearings where emotions at times ran high.
"The people in these two communities are fiercely independent," said East Carbon city attorney Jeremy Humes.
Despite that independence, they also rely on each other. East Carbon police have a contract to patrol Sunnyside. Both cities also share a fire department, which is headquartered in a building constructed with state funds neither municipality qualified for alone.
"If we don't approve consolidation, a lot of funding for improvements and stuff comes from grant money, and we're going to lose it," East Carbon resident John Cooper said after casting his vote for consolidation.
Voters in both communities expressed a number of concerns leading up to the election. Sunnyside's budget has taken a hit due to declining tax revenues, and some worry East Carbon's debt load is too high.
Despite those concerns, Sunnyside resident Delia Marquez voted for consolidation.
"Our towns are dying," she said. "Both of them are dying. We need something to get them going again, and maybe together we can do it."
The two cities become one on Jan. 1 and will be governed by a super council composed of 10 city council members and two mayors. Members of the super council will choose a mayor to serve a four-year term and determine the name of the consolidated city. Over time, the council will shrink in size to five members.